1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Bullets For Bafazane – Juluka

Work For All - Juluka

Work For All – Juluka

One website I came across describes Juluka’s ‘Bullets For Bafazane’ as a ‘happy song’. Granted, the website was one which concentrates on the songs beats per minute and, if one ignores the lyrics of ‘Bullets For Bafazane’, then yes, one may regard it as a ‘happy song’ as it has an uptempo beat with a jaunty sax dancing round the track like someone let loose on a Friday night dance floor.

But surely the clue is in the title, and if you missed that, the first line of the lyrics goes ‘Shadow men from the outlands come to town/Looking for Bafazane, they want to gun him down’. Still feeling happy? While the music is uptempo with a feel good jive to it, the song is certainly not about a happy subject. So many South African’s during the 80’s lived in fear of ‘shadow men’ coming to gun them down. But like a lot of our music, particularly during the darkest years of aparartheid, it juxtaposes a cheerful ‘happy’ sound with serious lyrics, keeping spirits up with the beat, while remembering the darkness in the lyrics.

Listening to the opening flatly plucked guitar, one is reminded of the Asylum Kids’ ‘Fight It With Your Mind’. There is a certain ominous feel to the sound which warns one that this is not a ‘happy song’. However, while the Asylum Kids’ track stays in that vein and continues to explores the darkness in both word and sound, Johnny and Sipho keep us dancing through the darkness.

We don’t know if Bafazane survives the ordeal as the song ends with him still waiting for the ‘shadow men’ to come with their bullets. But along the way we are reminded that, while he is still alive, he celebrates this fact. ‘It’s the sky up above that he loves/’Cause he’s still alive and for him that’s enough’. So, no this is not a ‘happy song’, but it is a song about courage and finding strength in a time of adversity.

Where to find it:
Work For All – Juluka (1983), Rhythm Safari, RSMCD 1032 134


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